Alan Biggs At Large: Betting Billy Sharp will be Sheffield United's top scorer this season
Sitting with a pal watching Sheffield United lose their season opener with Birmingham, this column ventured a little friendly bet.
“Billy Sharp, ” I said, “will be United’s top scorer this season. Again.”There was a surprised reaction. Sharp’s got plenty of form but he also happened to be 35; he’d slipped away from being an automatic choice, there were younger and, in some cases, costly strikers expected to take the mantle.But here we are. He’s been in and out of the side, as before, and Billy’s leading the way with seven goals, all but one in the league.Which, hand on heart, doesn’t surprise me at all. This man’s on a mission and it intensifies whenever he’s written off.More importantly, you’d back him - even the doubters now, you suspect - to accelerate into double figures and well beyond now that Paul Heckingbottom’s Blades are playing more to his strengths.Already he’s grabbed a goal in each of the games, both won, since Heckingbottom took charge. Check the typical predatory nature of them. More ball into the box and earlier is the best way to sum the difference.But not to be overlooked, either, is that previously the veteran marksman - sorry, can I use that word? - had been one of the main suppliers of chances in a team that was failing, shall we say, at the sharp end.Two victories and five goals under Heckingbottom is evidence that these players, operating as they were under Chris Wilder, are capable of delivering that anticipated promotion push. In fact, just as the former boss had expected all along.Not that Sharp is the main spark. That has to be Morgan Gibbs-White, absolutely outstanding during his loan from Wolves.As I’ve seen pointed out by others, United have to be wise to not over-relying on the verve, energy, pace and skill with which this player drives the team forward.Hopefully Wolves won’t seek to recall him in January; the Blades need to be considering what happens if they do and also if they have an alternative to supplying the same dynamic.But right now there is every reason to think that United can compete for a play-off spot as a minimum.Well done to Heckingbottom for publicly setting promotion as the target in place of all that “he won’t be judged on results” nonsense at his unveiling.This squad, with its experience and quality, should be judged on no less than that. Heckingbottom accepted as much and the responsibility that goes with it.It’s a bold start and it can continue.